I was fortunate enough to sit down with Greg Nowacki, Founder and CEO of Captive Branding, a digital marketing agency. I talked to him about his life story, entrepreneurship, How he started and the situations he faced. In our Interview Series, Greg Openly cleared everything honestly and explained his business ideas as well.
Me: How are you? Greg, Do you have any college life story that you would like to share? or maybe how you turned into a self employed business owner?
Greg: Yes, i am fine. So basically, I am a corporate dropout turned into a full time business owner and entrepreneur. When I graduated from college, I did what most kids use to do – I listened to my parents and transitioned straight from college to a “nine-to-five” job. because, that’s all what I was told and supposed to do. After three years of working for a pharmaceutical company, I decided that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had a pretty unique situation that led me to send in my resignation and quit my job.
Me: Great, if you don’t mind. What was the “unique situation”?
Greg: The unique situation was that my HR department actually reached out to me via email with a “couple of concerns”, but they were pretty vague about it. At the time, I had no idea that it could be related to my activity on social media. HR wanting to schedule a one-on-one phone call, that is never supposed to be a good thing for any employee. We spoke over the phone and they completely put me on the spot. They asked me questions about if I was posting content during business hours, if it was a company that I worked for or if it was my own thing. I was completely shocked at how deep they dove into my social media. They saw what I was doing as a potential conflict of interest and they definitely did not like the fact that I was posting so frequently inside the realm of nine to five. What sounds like a negative experience on the surface actually turned out to be a huge gift in disguise. I realized I just had to go full force with my true passions and take the leap to become a full-time entrepreneur.
Me: So describe for me your setting in this job at a pharmaceutical company. Tell me what it felt like and what type of social media you found yourself engaged in and why?
Greg: I just felt like an impostor on almost a daily basis. I would spend the majority of the day driving in my company car, going to the various accounts that I would call on. I was engaging with customers but at my core, I just felt like I was this different person. I was expected to push a medication that I didn’t really believe in. So I guess you could say the reason I started posting on social media, especially during the day, was partly just to keep me sane. I just wanted to share the things I was passionate about. This was during a period of self-education for me and I was learning a lot online. I was taking a lot of courses and I started to get really excited to share what I was learning with other people. But I was doing it during hours that weren’t necessarily appropriate in my company’s eyes. Even if I was recording and posting content in between driving from one place to the next, they were still looking at that as “company time” and not something I should be doing.
Me: You mentioned following what your parents wanted you to do. Is that how you ended up at this job after college?
Greg: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s how I ended up at this particular job specifically, but it’s definitely what caused me to go down the sequential path that our parents have always told us that we’re supposed to follow.
You know – graduate from high school, go to college, graduate from college with a degree. And then you’re just thrust out into the “real world” to go find a job. Growing up as a young adult, I always remembered my Dad saying to me “around age twenty-seven is when your life starts to come together. You’ll have your career, you might have somebody that you’re going to marry and you’ll begin to settle down and set into motion your life’s plan.” Well, funny thing about this whole plan was the fact that when I turned twenty-seven, I found myself saying that I wanted to change everything. I didn’t want any of that sort of stuff, that kind of life. So I decided that I really just wanted to do exactly what I was passionate about and I stopped abiding by the rules that everyone else had laid out for me.
Here’s the thing – I do think that parents have good intentions. But sometimes their intentions are based off older ideals and things that they were told by their parents. I think we can all agree that the times have changed quite a bit and it’s increasingly difficult to get by on a post-graduate starting salary these days. All of these factors combined just really inspired me to do my own thing
Me: Tell me who you are? How you see yourself today? and what you wanted to be when you were little?
Greg: I think that when I was little, I had a lot of the same grandiose dreams most kids have, like being an astronaut or an inventor. I always loved playing with Legos. I love building things. As a kid, my aspirations were simply to just have fun and enjoy every day, which are huge necessary attributes to life that we all somehow lose over the years as we become bogged down by what society tells us we should want.
Me: So why pharmaceutical sales?
Greg: It’s actually kind of funny because I majored in advertising and business in college, but I had worked as a pharmacy tech for almost eight years all through high school and college. So I think I just looked at what I was doing at the time and said to myself “okay, I’ve got all this experience in pharmaceuticals. I might as well give this a go because it’s going to be the easiest transition” And that’s what I did.
I think another reason why I ultimately choose pharmaceutical sales was because when I went to apply at a marketing agency, they told me how much I would be earning per year and I laughed and said to myself “well, that’s not going to work. I need to be able to pay my bills.” So I went for one of the highest paying industries there is. I didn’t have the foresight to see that choosing a career just for the money was a completely wrong decision on my part. But I ended up rising through the ranks despite my lack of passion for the industry. However, it was around six months into it when I realized that this was just not for me. I stuck with it for two and a half more years simply out of fear for not knowing what to do next.
Me: Can you expand on that a little bit more? The fear of not knowing what to do next?
Greg: Yes, actually I think the fear comes from a multitude of factors. One of them on the top is the disappointment of letting your parents down. That was definitely something that weighed really heavy on my heart. Another Reason of the fear was just the sheer feeling of being lost. It got to the point where I began to question who I was. I was chasing a bunch of different things and so rather than just taking action on one particular area and taking that leap, I kept staying in this paralysis analysis mode where I was learning and learning all of this amazing stuff. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t implementing any of it into my day-to-day life.
There was a video that I had watched one day from Steve Harvey where he talks about parachuting. He says that most people are so afraid to take the leap off the cliff for fear of whatever is down below. When you first jump, your parachute doesn’t open and it’s the most terrifying thing you’ve ever done and you’re going to fall and get some cuts and bruises. Maybe even a couple of broken bones. But then, at some point in time, the parachute does finally open and it’s the most glorious feeling ever. After hearing him say that, I realized I was being downright foolish to be so afraid to take the leap. Once I realized that, I knew that there would never be a perfect time to quit my job and start my own business. But I knew I still had to do it.
Me: How was the feeling after you were discovered by yourself?
Greg: Awesome, It was such a surreal feeling. Yet at the same time, I felt like I already knew that something like this would happen one day. I knew I was no longer giving it my all at work and obviously my focus had shifted elsewhere – onto my own business and personal brand that I had begun to build at the time.
I just remember getting an email from HR super late at night and we shot emails back and forth very briefly. I was trying to extract clues as to what their email was regarding but in the pit of my soul, I already sort of knew. When they put me on the spot over the phone and started to pull every video or post I had ever done out on to the table, I froze. I didn’t know what to say other than to own up to the fact that I was posting during company hours.
In my defense, i can say, it would be in the car or in between appointments. But to them, that really didn’t matter. I think the writing was really on the walls at this point. They had found a Facebook Live from six months ago and asked me about it point blank. They found a Youtube video where I openly declare to quit my job in 90 days. Never had I ever dreamed that my employer would pull these posts out on me. But in hindsight, I see this entire series of events as a huge blessing in disguise.
Me: So do you think as an adult, you’d ever be made to feel the way that you were feeling?
Greg: I don’t really think I ever did, It’s really hard. From a corporate standpoint, I can understand their perspective, but i also have my perspective. This entire series of events has taught me that all perspectives are true to a certain extent because each can have their own justification.
Me: How you define this incidence?
Greg: Looking back on the day now, it almost feels as if the universe was conspiring to push me in this direction. I remember that is was raining. In Southern California, we are known quite well for our droughts. This was the first time in ages that it was raining. Ironically enough, as soon as I had the conversation with HR, it began to pour. Let’s just say it was a very interesting day. The next twelve hours was such a whirlwind of emotions for me. They didn’t let me go on the spot, but after pulling up my Youtube page and Facebook Live videos, they decided to continue to “look into the matter” and that they would let me know within the next couple of days what would be happening. As soon as they said this, I began to worry. I questioned whether it would really be worth it for them to look into it while I stay and keep fooling myself that this job is my passion. I played around with the idea of weathering the storm while they watched me like a hawk. But my heart kept telling me to break away and pull the cord. To do my own thing and finally go 100% with my own business. I ended up typing my resignation letter around 2 in the morning and I’ll never forget the way it felt – my finger hovered over the send button for what felt like an eternity. When I finally pressed it, I felt a few moments of panic, but ultimately that feeling gave way to a feeling of relief. I no longer had to fake that I was passionate about my career. I no longer had to report to someone else. And as good as all of that felt, I knew that the real work was about to begin. I knew I had a long road ahead of me, but I was ready for it.
Me: What’s the first thing that you did? We have about 10 more minutes left. Just set up a plan? Did you have a business idea?
Greg: I began to fully execute on what was once just a “side hustle” for me. I took it all the way, full time. First thing I did was liquidate my 401k so that I had enough money to pay my rent and bills, but I knew the money would eventually run out. I knew that I had to hit the ground running. So I just started emailing and messaging people. For the first couple months I had zero new clients. It took weeks of finessing my pitch and practicing to be concise over the phone. I ended up obtaining a couple of clients, but it was nothing that was a long term partnership. Nothing I could really hang my hat on. But I was hungry for success and so I never stopped trying to make this work. I strongly believe it was the fact that I literally quit my job and had absolutely no cushion to fall back on that made me so hungry to succeed. Complacency can definitely hold us all back from accomplishing lofty goals. I can now say that business has never been better. I have expanded what I can offer to clients and have found a great niche for myself in the health and wellness industry. I love knowing that I am truly helping businesses succeed. As a business owner, it can be tough to not only man the business itself, but then to also have the mental capacity and the time to manage your social media as well. And we are most definitely in a progressive future at the moment where socials are absolutely the reigning king. I don’t see social media ever going away, it will only progress from here. I absolutely love educating business owners on leveraging social media. And it’s crazy to think that I have Youtube to thank for all of this. If I had never posted that video where I publicly declare to quit my job in 90 days and then it be discovered by my company, I hate to think how long I would have stuck around working at a job I truly disliked.
Me: Start a sentence that says why or answers this question, why now?
Greg: There is never going to be a perfect time. The only time is now. And so that’s the only question you have to ask yourself is why now do I need to take the jump? And the reason why is because now is the perfect time.
Me: Now rethink that about why now as in the Internet, cell phones and all the technology,
Greg: We all have technology ready and put at our fingertips. In essence, we hold the entire world in our back pocket. We have never lived in a more abundant period of time where everything that you need to succeed is literally a finger stroke away on your computer or your phone.
Me: Give me a takeaway that you would like the reader to know.
Greg: If you’re finding yourself comparing your life to others, thinking “oh wow, look at what this person did. I could never do it.” You have to stop that destructive way of thinking. Everyone starts somewhere. In order to be great, you have to start.
Me: I like that. OK? And so where are we driving people to?